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Naming the conflict
Sir, - Why not call it "The Hostage War"? That would cover the soldiers taken hostage before the war (and the putative reason for the war); the northern one-third of Israel and its inhabitants, who became not only hostages but were in immediate danger of their lives and property while the rest of Israel went about its business; the IDF, which was hostage to inept military and political leaders; and the latter, which, in turn, were and remain hostage to world pressure and their own lack of faith in Israel's God-given right to be ("'The War to Return the Captives' is the leading contender," March 19).
MIRIAM L. GAVARIN
Sir - The writer of "Thoughts on the Golan" (Letters, March 16) wonders if the Golan is as important from a security perspective as it once was. My response: Security comes in many guises.
All military leaders will tell you that, to date, grunts - soldiers on the ground - are the only method of capturing territory. Missiles and bombs succeed only in (partially) destroying it. Thus for a country such as Syria to wage successful war against Israel it needs to place soldiers on the ground to capture the territory. Physical land depth gives Israel time to respond; this depth is the Golan.
Security also comes in the guise of critical resources. Choke off your foe's critical resources, and you can win without a shot being fired. The primary critical resource in a desert country such as Israel is water. Since a very large proportion of Israel's water arrives from the Golan, giving up this vital and strategic resource is equivalent to advance surrender. Prior to the 1967 war Syria had already embarked on plans to divert water from the Golan.
Last but not least, Israel's "eyes of the north" - radar and other installations that can peer into Syria proper, enabling us to detect Syrian military moves and protect ourselves earlier and more successfully - are located in the Golan.
Until there is true peace with Syria, giving up this piece of land is suicidal.
Sir, - Mind-boggling is the only way to describe the suggestion that the Israeli government could plan to withdraw from parts of Judea and Samaria in response to the recently-created Palestinian unity government ("PA guidelines could push Israel to act unilaterally," March 16).
The logic of our leaders apparently goes like this: Israel has no peace partner, and so must take the diplomatic initiative. Therefore Israel will provide the terrorists and their supporters with free real estate. There's only one problem with this approach: It makes no sense.
Israel would be better served by, for example, annexing Ma'aleh Adumim and starting construction in Area E1.
Only when the Palestinians realize that their support of terror will cost them the possibility of a sovereign state can we hope to see the emergence of a pragmatic Palestinian leadership willing to negotiate a peaceful settlement with Israel.
A leaf out of granny's book
Sir, - The prime minister's "I am not popular" speech reminded me of my late grandmother. She used to read a book of prayers and supplications for women called Tzena Ur'ena which, at certain stages, would say: Hier wird gekreint - here, you cry - and she would dutifully obey.
Listening to the PM I wondered how many spin doctors had drafted his speech, and how many days of rehearsals had been put in to ensure the right inflections and gestures, as noted in the script he slavishly followed ("I am not popular, Olmerts concedes," March 16).
Sir, - Olmert shrugs off his shocking unpopularity by claiming he made correct but unpopular decisions in the Lebanon war, such as delaying a ground assault until the war's final week. This disingenuous claim flies in the face of the testimonies of hundreds of soldiers and reservists who witnessed, firsthand, the disastrous results of our government's incompetence. The ill-conceived, hasty launching of a ground attack at the end of the war caused the deaths of 33 Israeli soldiers and failed to achieve any political or military gains.
Sir, - Speaking to demonstrators protesting the abduction of BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston in Gaza City over the weekend, PA Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti said: "We are opposed to the kidnapping of foreign journalists who serve the Palestinian cause" ("Palestinians protest abduction of reporters in Gaza," March 18).
A useful contribution to the ongoing debate on the impartiality of the BBC's Middle East coverage?
Sir, - The proposed appointment of 13 new rabbinical court judges from the haredi community is, once again, the outcome of political agreements made, it seems, by the prime minister. Should these appointments go through, it will only strengthen the movement calling for civil marriage and divorce.
It's about time the non-haredi Orthodox rabbis took a strong stance, contemplating boycotting these courts and insisting that rabbinical judges come from their midst.
The haredim don't recognize the chief rabbinate and can have their courts, as they have their own education system ("Agunot NGO decries appointment of haredi rabbinic judges," March 19).
Sir, - In "Fair pay's enemy" (Letters, March 18) your reader is impractical and, in many ways, wrong.
Teachers do not live in the world of the private sector, but in the public sector. However, even in the private sector one only has to look at the bloated salaries of CEOs and chairmen of the board to see that employees do not "always" get paid according to ability or, for that matter, results. And even in the private sector entry-level employees get paid for qualifications.
The entry-level salaries of teachers with university degrees and teaching qualifications is so low it is no surprise that most suitable candidates refuse to consider teaching as a profession.
Seder in Turkey?
Sir, - A family friend from Belgium stopped by and I asked where he would be going for Pessah. He usually takes his family to Israel, so I was very surprised when he answered, "Turkey." Surprise turned to shock when he told me that a large number of Antwerp families were going to Turkey for Pessah this year. After he left, shock was replaced by near-revulsion at the thought of Jewish children sitting around a Seder table in the Muslim capital of Europe.
It's bad enough to see Israelis traveling to Egypt for Pessah. But they are mainly secular folk, for whom it's more of a holiday than a holy day. What on earth has become of our people, who have yearned for Jerusalem for 2,000 years, only to pass it up for a caterer's discount in Ankara?
The celebrants in Turkey should beware when they open up the door for Elijah: It may well be Muhammad who walks in.